If you're someone who likes to check your lottery ticket as the Pick-4 numbers are drawn, or you immediately return to a lottery retailer when your scratch-off ticket reveals a prize, you may be surprised to learn how much dough goes unclaimed on an annual basis in New Jersey.

Oksana Kostyushko, ThinkStock

Over the past three fiscal years, New Jersey Lottery players forfeited $126 million in winnings through draw and instant games.

"People may lose their ticket, forget to check the ticket ... or if it's not a huge amount of money (and) they don't bother to claim it," said Judy Drucker, New Lottery spokeswoman.

In 2015 alone, $48 million went unclaimed.

Drucker said most of that unclaimed pot goes directly to the state programs and institutions that the state lottery is designed to assist, such as school nutrition programs, veterans' homes and psychiatric hospitals.

By law, a minimum of 30 percent of revenue must be contributed to the state on behalf of its beneficiaries.

Another segment of unclaimed winnings is devoted to other prize pools and special player promotions, Drucker said. The Million Dollar Replay, for example, gives another chance to those who purchased non-winning instant tickets.

For draw games such as Jersey Cash 5 and Powerball, New Jersey players have one year from the date of the draw to claim their winnings.

While sifting through files to prepare her taxes, a Clifton woman recently found a Jersey Cash 5 lottery ticket worth more than $470,000. She claimed her prize less than two weeks before the ticket was set to expire.

Prizes for scratch-off games are valid for one year after the individual game ends its run. Those dates are not found on the tickets themselves, but the information can be found on the New Jersey Lottery website.

Check here to see which instant games' prizes are on their way to expiration and how much money has yet to be claimed.

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